Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Ashli Ahrens for her answers!
1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I’ve lived in Arkansas most of my life but in the Little Rock area for about six in all.
2. Where’s the best place to eat in North Little Rock? I’ll be honest, I don’t stray too far away from the downtown area for dining out, so I can’t help but zero in on Argenta (downtown North Little Rock) for my choice here. The Starving Artist Café is my favorite NLR spot for lunch or dinner. I love the food, I love the art. Their house-made soups are the bomb. Plus the Tales from the South series recorded there is something Arkansans should really be proud of.
3. What is your favorite place to go for a great cocktail? I sincerely appreciate the creativity, style and savvy that house-made cocktails involve, and I love reading the descriptions in the menus. But I’m a white-wine gal, so I love a place with a great wine selection. For that I love Zin (Urban Wine and Beer Bar) in the River Market district and Crush in Argenta. If I were going to take friends out for great cocktail options, my top pick is Capital Bar and Grill. But honestly, South on Main and Big Orange Midtown are doing really great things too.
4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? Uh oh. This could be a long list. Probably at the top is Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. I could honestly eat a sleeve of them a day if I could justify ordering enough to last me a whole year. Also on the list a package of Oreo’s as long as I have plenty of milk. Also semi-chocolate chips straight from the bag which I keep in the freezer. I can also chow down on the spaghetti carbonara from the former Lulav (now Cellar 220). I’ll stop at four just to keep from embarrassing myself. Oh wait, Little Debbie’s peanut butter crunch bars straight from the freezer. Okay, that’s it.
5. What word would you use to describe the Little Rock dining scene? Wow. One word. I suppose that word would be “exceptional.” I read this a while back and I honestly believe it’s true; the greater Little Rock area has more restaurants per capita than most cities our size. As long as you’re not looking for the latest in Ethiopian cuisine or something really far afield, we’ve got high-quality and interesting dining choices here in Little Rock. And I don’t mean chains.
6. What Arkansas celebrity (past or present) would you want to have dinner with? Hands down Bill Clinton and honestly Hillary, too. (I know she’s not FROM Arkansas but we claimed her for quite a while.) Bill Clinton put Arkansas on the national and global map, and he continues to positively impact our state. My husband and his family know Bill well. I’d just like to have them all around the table and chat the night away.
7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Appetizer: Bang Bang shrimp from Bonefish (note: the only chain restaurant I’ve mentioned). Sweet, spicy and fabulous. That’s why all of Little Rock shows up on the night they offer $2 off. Entrée: Salpicao from Café Bossa Nova. Dessert: banana pudding from Capital Bar and Grill (they make their own vanilla wafers for heaven’s sake!)
8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? This year I visited Baltimore, Maryland, for the first time. My husband had been there last year and brought back the incredible lump crab cakes from Faidley’s there. My main mission, aside from attending a work conference, was to bring home another batch of those KILLER crab cakes. So, I would hop a plane anytime and go to Baltimore for more of those insanely perfect crab cakes. No remoulade or tartar sauce needed. No sides either.
9. What restaurant do you typically go to for a celebratory occasion? Ashley’s at the Capital, Brave New Restaurant (always get the fish of the day) or The Pantry. I can’t choose.
10. What is one Little Rock restaurant you’ve never eaten at that may surprise people? I’ve never been to Pizza D’Action in Stift’s Station. It’s true, oddly enough, given my affection for that part of town. Runners-up for this question would be Lassis Inn, Chuy’s and Mellow Mushroom (though I’ve been to one in Tennessee and loved it).
I owe my appreciation for fine food and plain ol’ GOOD food to my mother. From the beginning she encouraged me to try new foods, taught me to cook and showed me the magic of entertaining at home. I remember her asking me where I wanted to go out to eat for a milestone birthday (maybe it was my 16th). Without batting an eye I answered La Petite Roche. That was the restaurant in the then Excelsior Hotel. It sounded swanky, French and I wanted to go. I’m pretty sure my parents took me there, and later to Ashley’s upon request. I haven’t looked back.